We greet a friend or welcome a stranger
Let him sing or cheer him on his way
And celebrate the child in the manger
Born on Christmas day

In our social-media obsessed world, I am afraid that we have forgotten what it actually means to be, well, social. To greet our friends and strangers, to wish them good tidings and peace on earth. To spread Christmas cheer to everyone we meet.

This isn’t a fake cheer that fails to acknowledge the evil in the world, but an intentional push-back against our self-obsessed, self-indulgent world, seeking ways to encourage and love those around us.

Especially in light of the shooting in San Bernardino, California, I am burdened that we embrace the lost art of kindness, including to strangers and those who are different than us. Our natural reaction is to strike a defensive posture, to assume that the person at the post office is a terrorist, and so we treat strangers with contempt, reacting from our fear.

How would the world change if we chose to assume the best, and to treat friends and strangers with lavish kindness? Could we, person by person, change the course of violence in our world if we just showed love and compassion in tangible ways? Christians, we are commanded to love everyone, to extend grace, to demonstrate kindness to everyone we meet, all because of the extreme love and mercy extended to us in Christ.

This song by The Carpenters is one of my favorites from their Christmas album because it speaks to everything I love about Christmas. (If you don’t listen to The Carpenters at Christmas, you are seriously missing out. It’s one of my favorite Christmas albums ever.)

Today, while you are running errands, working, carpooling, or wherever else life moves you, be intentional to find ways to spread some Christmas kindness to those you meet. Be generous with your smiles, kind words, Christmas wishes. You may make all the difference in someone’s day. You may change the course of someone’s life.

Recipe

Holidays in the South just don’t happen without some sort of congealed salad. There are lots of variations on this theme (strawberry pretzel salad is probably my personal favorite), but this cranberry salad is one that my mother made for many years.

1 6 oz. package cherry jello

2 c. boiling water

1 1 lb. can whole cranberry sauce

1 small can crushed pineapple, drained

1/2 c. chopped pecans

Dissolve jello in boiling water and stir until dissolved. Add pineapple, cranberry sauce, and nuts; chill.

Traditions

I have an arrangement of “Silent Night, Holy Night” writt12346863_10156251635085244_1670046393_n[2]en for solo piano, arranged by E. E. Crerie, and published by a company called Volkwein Bros. in Pittsburgh in 1917. I can’t remember if it was a piece of music that my mother had from her years of piano lessons, or if it something that my piano teacher gave to me. I know it was a hand-me-down – it has markings all over it that I didn’t make. The paper is old, and showing its age. The arrangement has a very old-fashioned feel to it, no syncopated rhythms or modern chord structures. It even has a section where the left hand crosses over the right! I will play it at any and all opportunities during the Christmas season, even if just for myself at home. I’ve played it since I was a young teenager, and my Christmas-listening just isn’t complete without it.

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